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Why China has moved to 'uncharted waters': Expert

China's nearly 2 percent devaluation of the yuan by itself will have little effect, but markets are shaken amid uncertainty of the country's next move, one currency expert said Tuesday.

"The 2 percent is not a big deal. What people are concerned about is what this will mean going forward," said Marc Chandler, global head of currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman, on CNBC's "Closing Bell."

"People are nervous because we're in uncharted waters."

A Chinese yuan currency sign in Hong Kong on August 11, 2015.
Philipe Lopez | AFP | Getty Images
A Chinese yuan currency sign in Hong Kong on August 11, 2015.

U.S. stocks broadly sold off on Tuesday amid concerns the dollar strengthening against the yuan will create more headwinds for multinational companies. Commodities also dragged, continuing a prolonged slide, as U.S. crude oil fell 4 percent to settle at a six-year low.

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Chandler contended that markets did not react to the first devaluation, but to the possibility of steeper declines.

"The market is saying that there are going to be more devaluations coming," he noted.

Still, Chandler downplayed concerns that China's move would start a global currency war, or other countries making similar moves in response. Some multinational companies also looked to minimize concerns about the yuan's effect on their performance.

General Motors, for instance, called its exposure to foreign exchange moves "limited and manageable." The automaker noted it did not expect a "material impact" on its finances.

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GM and its joint ventures sold 229,175 cars in China in July, a 4 percent year-over-year decline.